European 'pension mobility'


The European Union facilitates not only labour mobility amongst its Member States, but also helps its retired workers receive their pensions across borders – a sometimes forgotten benefit.
It is well known that EURES focuses in general on the needs of active workers. However, there are cases were help and advice can also be given to our retired fellow citizens.
Antonio Salazar was born 63 years ago in Almeria in the south of Spain, at the time one of Europe’s poorest regions. The economic situation in this agricultural area was particularly desperate in the 1950s, forcing many inhabitants to look for jobs in other parts of Spain or even abroad. Antonio had to work hard on the family farm since early childhood, but decided to go his own way at the age of 16.
An adventurous young lad, Antonio travelled up north to the Spanish-French border town of Portbou, which, along with its French counterpart, Cerbère, was at the time an important train junction. Then, Spain and France had different railway gauges which required goods and passengers to move – and be moved – between wagons and countries. Antonio eventually started as a manual transporter of goods, choosing to work on the French side where salaries back then were three to four times higher than in Spain. He worked in France for the next 17 years until Spanish wages caught up and he could relocate to Portbou, where he still works to this day in the same profession.
Last year, Antonio attended a road-show for cross-border workers, organised by the EURES cross-border partnership Pyremed/Pirimed. These regular information sessions are set up in cooperation with local mayors to inform mobile workers about their labour-related rights. When EURES Adviser Ricard Bellera Kirchhoff found out about Antonio’s professional history, he immediately realised that he could be of help. While Spanish men can retire at the age of 65, the limit in France is only 60. Antonio thus would have been entitled to a French pension for the last two years – a fact he wasn’t aware of.
He was sceptical at first, because he couldn’t believe that is was possible to receive at the same time a Spanish salary and a French pension. But the persistent encouragement and legal advice of EURES Adviser Ricard eventually convinced Antonio to take action. Five months later the first payment arrived on his account. To top off his surprise, he was also informed that he would receive a complementary pension once he turned 65. At this point, he will have three retirement benefits – two from France and one from Spain. Antonio may have found out about his rights once he applied for his Spanish pension, but would have lost three years worth of French payments.
Antonio and Ricard celebrated the first transfer with a big fish platter in a beach-side restaurant – a well-deserved treat for some very successful EURES advice.
The Spanish/French Euroregion Pyrénées Méditerranée, recognised by the Council of Europe, has been founded in 1991 by five neighbouring regions to encourage cross-border cooperation. A few years later, three of the regions decided to establish the EURES cross-border partnership Pyremed/Pirimed in the same area. The partnership supports on the one hand people interested in work- or training-opportunities across the border, on the other hand employers seeking to recruit in other partner regions.

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